According to the established Sunnah of the Prophet
(sws), the five prayers have been fixed at five specific times of the day. In
the Arabic language, Fajr, Zuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib and ‘Ishā are words which denote
distinct times of a day just as in the English language, dawn, morning,
afternoon, evening and night are words spoken for distinct times of a day.
In the Arabic language, the general meaning understood by
these words is:
Fajr: The period from dawn to sunrise.
Zuhr: The period which extends from the descent (zawāl) of
the sun to the time which is midway between this descent and sunset.
‘Asr: The period which extends from the time which is
midway between the descent of the sun and sunset to sunset.
Maghrib: The period between sunset and disappearance of
‘Ishā: The period between the disappearance of twilight and
the time which is midway between this disappearance and dawn.
Today one can easily calculate these time periods after the
inventions of sensitive clocks and telescopes. Experts have done already done
so, and the various charts which depict the prayer timings at various places can
now be easily obtained. In the earlier times, the various phases of descent of
the sun were measured through a person’s shadow, while the phenomena of dawn,
sunrise, sunset and twilight were observed through the naked eye. This of course
is no longer required today.